My journey to Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was fraught with danger, full of adventure, and marked by new friendships. My trip was not an easy one, but don't fear or despair! It's not actually that hard to get to Montserrat and I'll tell you every mistake to avoid.
A younger Jenny
I went to Barcelona for a weekend by myself during a semester abroad. It was scary and exciting going off on my own, but youth hostels are great places for making fast friends. It was with these friends that I explored the city. Absolutely stunning and bursting with life, Barcelona is not a city to be missed. If you're looking for a day trip while you're there then look no further than the Montserrat Abbey. This mountain has been a holy site for centuries and though it was in use Roman/pre-christian era, the monastery was officially founded in 1025 by expanding upon the already founded hermitage. Now, the statue of the black virgin which has performed miracles is the driving force for pilgrimage.
Just 45 km northwest of the city, the abbey sits about 1,200 meters high atop a mountainside. From the top you can see further than you'd have ever thought possible. Rolling green fields, red rock mountains, and the beautiful landscape of Catalonia makes this view well worth the trip. I ended up taking the trip by train, which is an hour and a half ride and completely manageable for a short visit. Once we arrived in town our mistakes started to begin. The maze like city had little signs pointing the way, but we had no map and no idea where we were going... so we just went up.
There are a couple of ways to make your way up to the top of the mountain. A funicular will bring you right up to the top for an easy and enjoyable ride. We decided to hike up and save some money. The 'we' on that did not really include me, who had worn jeans, tread-less boots, and a silk tank top. I didn't dress for hiking on this day, and this is no 20 minute up-hill walk. If you are looking for a nature filled hike in Spain then this one should be great! Maybe you'll be better at navigating than 3 kids trying to figure out the route.
We hiked for hours up and up and up and still the monastery seemed so far out of reach across the mountains. You see, there is a whole series of hiking trails on the Montserrat nature preserve and it seems we sampled a few of them. We even went a little off trail. 'Let's try this way," and off we climbed up what was apparently not a trail. It led us deeper into the shrubbery and across our most dangerous encounter.
The Calm After The Storm
Weird sounds were coming from the bushes just ahead, they sounded frantic and angry. Still, I guess we had to see what they were. That's when a boar came towards us.
Oh, I'm sorry it wasn't a boar. It was the front half of a boar and that was quite honestly, much more frightening. We didn't know where the back half of that boar was, or what had taken it, or how half of an animal was alive by itself and coming towards us, but we definitely did not wait to find out. I have never run faster in my life. The adrenaline boost did help us make our final ascent up the mountain though so, you lose some you win some.
I don't know who this guy is, but if you see him- you're near the top!
Up top, all memory of the treacherous and strenuous climb up is immediately forgotten. The air is cooler from the wind and the height so we needed a jacket, but the chill was refreshing after a long hike. Wild irises cling to the cliffside and you can see clear across the mountains. The buildings are stunning and filled with so much history. You can truly see this as a mystical place of introspection and beauty.
So if you are looking for any kind of day trip consider Montserrat. The mountains have nearly everything you could be looking for. Your trip away from the city could be an day of hiking and natural exploration. You could come for the history and take the easy way up top. Or just come to enjoy the view, because that alone is worth it. Just… stay on trail.